Verbum Ultimum: Dear President Hanlon
Welcome to Dartmouth! As you assume your new role, you will take the helm of an institution that is in a state of flux. Over the past few years, the College's administration has seen significant turnover, and even more recently, the undergraduate student body has seen a dramatic split over campus issues. As you assume your new role, you will need to quickly get your administrative house in order to effectively pursue the goal of making Dartmouth have the best undergraduate experience in the country.
It is no secret that Dartmouth's administration has been largely rudderless for at least the last four years. From 2009 until last year, former College President Jim Yong Kim barely managed to get all of his employees in place before he left. In the aftermath of Kim's departure, the College has been left with numerous administrative positions filled by interim hires. This has not only impeded the administration's ability to address important long-term issues, but its willingness to perform essential routine tasks. The Committee on Standards' failure to release its two most recent annual reports is one example of how instability at the top has trickled down to the lower rungs of the administration.
Once this task is accomplished, to what end should you strive? Dartmouth provides undergraduates with an academic experience that is among the best in the country, and it should undoubtedly continue to do so. We would suggest, however, that the College strive to provide the best overall undergraduate experience in the country, not merely a great education. Given that Dartmouth is a residential college, our social experiences as students are an integral part of how we evaluate our four years here. Over these last few weeks, the social situation has completely overshadowed the academic one. We need to figure out how to create a social climate in which all students feel comfortable and we can learn from individuals of different backgrounds.
In terms of improving the undergraduate experience, the D-Plan creates challenges and opportunities that are unique to Dartmouth. Students study abroad and pursue internships that are simply not available at most other institutions. To take advantage of these opportunities, students need better academic, personal and career advising. And with students on and off campus at different times, many residence halls are nearly devoid of any sense of community, underscoring the need for a new approach to residential life.
Dartmouth has long been fortunate to have a loyal and generous alumni base. It is imperative that you conduct a significant capital campaign within the near future. This could help the College improve student services, build for the future and limit further increases to an already exorbitant level of undergraduate tuition and fees.
With an effective and engaged administration, creating the best undergraduate experience is certainly an attainable goal. We wish you the best of luck.